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Supporting disabled teens to succeed at school

Mark Shanks

24 January 2017 – The move to secondary school for young people with disabilities can be challenging, even for those who may have previously thrived at primary school.


Wellington-based Mark Shanks has 20 years’ experience working directly and indirectly in special education both as a teacher and as an itinerant professional.

He recently headed a project with Life Unlimited, a national charitable trust which provides information and support so disabled people can live the life they choose.

The project aims to improve the transition process for young people with disabilities as they move from secondary school into adult life.

“I’m passionate about supporting young people with a disability to achieve their full potential. This support involves active and constructive conversations with the young person, their families, teachers, school and other key people – it’s a collaborative planning process to achieve the best outcomes.”

His tips on how to support teenagers through secondary school are on Life Unlimited’s new comprehensive Online Information Hub, which provides advice for people with disabilities and their whānau, family and carers.

They include:

  • Creating a teen-centred plan that outlines how home and school will work together
  • Developing a strong professional relationship with the head teacher and teacher-aide
  • Linking up with Special Education
  • Encouraging field trips, school camps, work experience, community activities and visits to tertiary institutions.

Shanks also says preparing an individual education plan is crucial and discusses what parents can and should do if the school is not providing the teenager with the opportunities they need.

Contact: Mark Shanks 021 242 9643 or 04 569 3102